My Perspectives on “Burn a Koran” Day

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Well, unless you’ve paid no attention to the news lately, you’re probably familiar with plans of a Florida minister to burn copies of the Quran, Koran, or however it’s spelled on September 11 of this year.

From the linked article:

The pastor of a small Florida church who has pledged to incinerate copies of the Quran on Sept. 11 said Wednesday he would press ahead with the plan, despite pleas from the Obama administration, U.S. military officials, the Vatican and religious leaders around the world.

“As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing,” said Terry Jones, pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.

The church’s plans have been denounced by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and other senior military officials who say they fear images of a burning Quran could be used to drum up anger toward the U.S. and potentially endanger troops.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the church’s actions “disgraceful” in a speech Wednesday to the Council on Foreign Relations. Protests against the plan have also come from the Republican and Democratic candidates for Florida governor, as well as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Meanwhile, Muslim media from Turkey to Afghanistan warned that burning the sacred text of Islam could deepen animosity toward the West.

Oh, where to begin…

OK, let me start with my own thoughts of this man’s actions. As a Catholic, a Christian, and simply a human being, I believe he is completely wrong in doing this. While I can understand the feelings of animosity towards the terrorists of 9-11-2001 and their supposed dedication to the Muslim faith – at least their sect of it – this is not the way to be a “light to the world.”

It is easy to boil Muslims down to the terrorists who zealously wish to further a jihadistic approach to spreading the faith. And it may even be fair to say that a much larger percentage of the estimated 1.5 billion muslims in the world adhere to some sort of extreme view of spreading their faith that includes use of violence in some way, shape or form. But that, quite honestly, is irrelevant to whether or not this is a good idea.

Let’s think about Jesus for a second, and ask oursleves if we honestly believe He would preside over a Koran-burning ceremony today. And, if not preside, would he support the actions of a group who would. Remember, this is the same Jesus who told people to basically give in and pay their taxes, because that isn’t important. This is the same Jesus who reached out to surrounding peoples – including Roman soldiers – in peace and love while flipping over the tables at the temple of His own people. Jesus, today, would be much more likely to save His harshest words and actions for members who claim to speak in His name, for actions taking place in His own places of worship, and for His followers than He would be likely to condemn people of other faiths.

That is not to say Jesus would shrink from truth. Certainly, He would share the gospel with Muslims. He would answer their questions. He would correct errors, and He would do so unapologetically. [Let me take a quick moment to admit that I seem to be in tune with “the mind of God.” Obviously, I am a simple man and cannot understand God’s ways. Therefore, my reasoning here could well be fallible. That said, I think I’m reading the actions of Jesus in His ministry 2000 years ago and applying them appropriately today.]

So, let’s examine the actions of burning the Koran. The first thing to ask is what the point of this is. And here’s the problem. From everything I’ve read, it pretty much boils down to “Islam is evil, and therefore we’re going to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11.” There is no real practical means to an end here from an eradication of the Koran, if that were the goal. It’s not as if members of the church were secretly closet muslims, were exposed, and are now being taught a lesson by having their Korans burned. (Not that those would be right-minded “ends,” but at least there would be some ill-advised point to the action.) Most importantly, if this guy thinks that burning a Koran will make miillions of muslims stop and think “Hmmm. Maybe he has a point,” then he’s either incredibly naive or just plain stupid.

Which pretty much means that the action’s intentions are simply an incendiary one, with no clear goal other than to provoke anger, create division, and (probably most important) draw a boatload of attention to himself.

So, having said all that, I have some other thoughts. Some of these are conflicting thoughts to my personal view on the matter. Let’s start by reviewing elements of the article.

despite pleas from the Obama administration, U.S. military officials, the Vatican and religious leaders around the world.

“As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing,” said Terry Jones, pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.

One of my first thought is “you’ve got to be kidding me.” And by that, I mean “why are we even talking about what some guy who is the minister of a 50-member church is doing?” But it goes further. Not only are we talking about it, but the action of this one guy has drawn a response from the Obama Administration, General Petraeus in Afghanistan, The Vatican, world leaders in numerous countries, and just about every candidate anywhere running for office.

Sheesh. Am I the only one who considers this overkill?

Had we all just noted the story and said “OK, so some nut in Florida is going to burn a Koran and that’s probably a pointless and mean thing to do” and leave it at that, then the entire freakin’ world would be better off and I wouldn’t have to type this post. And, quite honestly, that is what we should have done.
My personal opinion is that NOBODY should even be acknowledging this. Not Obama. Not Hillary. Not the Vatican. Nobody. Not Drudge, not CNN. Nobody. In fact, I’m almost embarrassed to see all these powerful people practically begging and pleading for this guy to stop. Instead of doing that, I would simply ask the media if this really is what we want to spend our time discussing. Individuals do dumb things that offend people every day and we don’t make a global issue out of it.

I suppose it has reached a point now where people feel they have to chime in, lest they be considered insensitive. But it’s almost mind-boggling that one guy who leads a small church/online furniture store can get the entire world this revved up. Scratch that… not almost. It IS mind-boggling.

OK, so it is what it is. Do we stop him?

No. We ignore him. There is a lot of wisdom in the saying “I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it.” As incendiary as this might be, it’s a non-issue if we pay no attention to it. Too late for that, but that still doesn’t change the answer. There could be no worse precedent than for the government to think it is in our best interest to step in and stop what is a legitimate right under our Constitution. This is not to say it is good, that he’s right, that it isn’t obnoxious… but it’s his right. He’s not forcing us to attend or watch. We are willful participants. Now, by all means, continue to try to talk some sense into the man, but at some point you just shake your head and move on.

Now, having said everything that I have said, here are some honest questions that could reasonably be asked of “the other side” of the debate, and to varying degrees are very legitimate questions. None of these questions change the fact that this is a bad idea, due to the “two wrongs don’t make a right” rule. But they do deserve good answers.

1) More than once, small groups have desecrated Christian religious items, including Bibles. Forget about the illegal activities of vandalism, let’s just focus on events where people bring presumably legitimately acquired items and burn them or desecrate them in some manner. We know this has happened. In fact, last year there was a professor in Minnesota – an avowed atheist – who claimed to have acquired a consecrated Host – the most Sacred of elements in Catholicism – and he showed pictures of it on his blog after he stabbed it with a fork or something, threw it in the trash, and poured coffee grinds and fruit peels and other garbage on top of it. In Catholic circles, there was very sad outrage to this event. In other similar protests, those things spartk anger and sadness, and hurt.

Questions: Where was the President, Secretary of State, Muslim leaders, other atheists, and world leaders in denouncing any and all of these actions? It is very likely that the Minnesota professor had a much larger following of “disciples” than this Florida minister. The same is probably true of many of these kinds of anti-Christian events that pop up now and again. Where is the anger of intolerance? Where are the comments about narrow-mindedness in reference to these groups? Why is it that it seems like the only time we hear this outrage and this language, it is when a self-proclaimed Christian (whether a major figurehead or an unknown small-fry) takes on Islam in a confrontational way? Or, heaven forbid, when Christians tackle social Sacraments of abortion and gay marriage. Why these times, but no reciprocation?

2) The minister is being embarrasingly begged to cease and desist because we’re afraid of terrorists, and that we are afraid that we’ll be viewed as insensitive to the muslim world with far-reaching implicatiuons.

Questions: Doesn’t this say more about those of the muslim faith that would hold the entire West accountable for something they don’t like coming from some fringe Pastor? Doesn’t it actually play into our own stereotypes to suggest that the expected and natrural response here from muslims will be violence? Even if I disagree with this guy, why is it that every time we don’t “appease” the muslim world, an argument for doing so is because if we don’t it may be a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda? We can’t move the mosque at ground zero, either, because there may be violent reaction. What?! Are we really this spineless that this is the reason? Let me be clear: I disapprove of this Pastor’s actions, but my reasons for doing so have nothing to do with muslims who would immediately resort to terrorism and violence. There is no good way to deal with evil, and those people will find some other reason to hate us. My concern is those muslims that are NOT violent. As a non-violent Christian, I find anti-Christian rhetoric and actions to be hurtful and insensitive. Sure, I can move on and I can pray for those people, but I’d still prefer that they don’t put their hatred on display for the express purpose of poking a finger in my eye. For muslims who are good and peaceful people who love their faith, want to live their lives, and coexist with us Christians, this action has to sting and hurt. It certainly won’t help win anyone over to Christianity, either. So, to heck with the terrorists and what they think. Can we please stop using that as an excuse to not do something? Can’t we just appeal to simple human decency?

Now, that said, I do understand that there’s an annoying reality that there are security costs at U.S. embassies. I understand that there is a real concern that there will be animosity that flares up and we need to figure out how to deal with it. I blame the media attention and attention given by world leaders here as much as I blame the Pastor.

3) I saw pictures of protests in the muslim world over this issue. I saw people burning American Flags and burning an effigy of the Pastor.

Question: Really? This is your way of convincing us that the Pastor is a nutjob? Ugh. I swear that nobody can think rationally.

My ultimate conclusion is a comment I often make about a lot of things: Some people really just enjoy making life as difficult as possible.

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2 responses »

    • I kept your comment due to its valid point, despite what I am certain are disagreements in perspective on the faith vs. gay rights issues.

      So, with respect to Mehlmann’s comments, which are political rather than faith-related, I would just say that there are clumsy ways of pointing out a general truth.

      Despite what gays may see as struggles or intolerance in America from Christians, it truly is small potatoes as compared to what gays could expect under Sharia Law. I know of no Christians, Catholic or otherwise, who believe that our differences warrant the death penalty for gays. Regardless of how heated the “should gays marry or shouldn’t they” debate may rage, and despite some vitriolic statements that may come from people in the heat of debate and argument, I think it can start to cloud judgment, in a sense, as to whom the real enemies of gays are.

      Now, that said, it’s a seriously stupid statement to say that the GOP is against muslims. I would concur that the GOP wants to take a generally tougher line on terrorism, and is much more willing to call a spade a spade in that it makes no sense to treat everyone with equal scrutiny when talking about security. And the GOP is much more willing to point out that it is Islamic terrorism when it is. But saying the GOP is against muslims is not any more accurate than to say the GOP is “against” gays. People and agendas are two different things. Individuals and groups are two different things.

      But in the dumb statement lies that kernel of truth: liberal outreach to both gays and the portion of the muslim community that wishes to establish Sharia law is absolutely in opposition to one another, and the gay community had better hope that nothing ever comes of any such efforts. And while that seems quite distant or impossible here in the U.S., it is not nearly as improbable in some European countries that seem to have their collective heads buried in the sand.

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